‘Occupy’ protets not for coup -FDD

The Forum for the Defense of Democracy (FDD) has clarified that contrary to reports circulated by government agents, the aborted ‘Occupy Parliament Agenda’ was not intended to topple the current regime or invade the National Assembly but simply to voice out against the conduct of business in the August House.

FDD had planned for a week-long vigil near parliament premises but its efforts were thwarted by the Speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda and the Lilongwe District Commissioner’s refusal to issue it with a written permission to go ahead.

A statement issued by FDD Coordinator for the Central Region, Ben Chiza Mkandawire, says the grouping only intended to mobilize the citizens and public opinion to challenge power holders and encourage the society to effectively participate , adhere to national values and responsibilities, to redress social problems that are affecting the country on a daily basis.

Chiza Mkandawire; Occupy movement

The statement further says that FDD is ultimately there to ensure that the citizenry is active in the decision-making processes that affect them especially during the time when normal channels of their political participation are deliberately frustrated by Executive influence over Parliament.

“FDD as a grouping stands on principles of good governance, respect of rule of law and human rights and is a platform for enabling citizens to challenge the prevailing atmosphere that is unfavourable to the majority of Malawians,” states the statement issued to Nyasa Times.

He said furthermore, the Occupy Parliament Agenda was to remind Members of Parliament their legitimate role of representing their constituents.

FDD observed that the law (Police Act, section 103) provides this permission to every active citizen to demonstrate peacefully and the failure meant that the grassroots in Malawi are unable to exert their discontent and demand change in the way their Parliamentarians behave.

Although the plan did not materialize, FDD and its partners (concerned Malawians and some Malawians in Diasporas) commend Malawians who demonstrated interest, commitment and inspiration towards the Occupy Parliament Agenda.

In addition, the statement says the deployment of heavy police presence and tracking organizers of the vigil testified to the fact that Malawians live in a country where human rights are not being respected and promoted.

“The Occupy Parliament Agenda remains to instill in the minds of ordinary Malawians their constitutional responsibility of expressing through (public opinion) and expressing their will through other legal means. It, therefore, remains a platform for pressing social change and above all holding legislators accountable to the fundamental principles of democracy,” says the statement.

Among the concerns FDD is pressing for redress, among others, include acute fuel shortages, fore scarcity, unavailability of hospital drugs, high cost of living, job scarcity, high water and electricity tariffs, increase of MPs salaries and meager civil servants’ salaries.

However, FDD says despite the refusal by the authority entrusted to provide permission for the Occupy Parliament Agenda, it was noteworthy that their efforts have made impact especially on the recent government announcement that some oppressive laws including the Injunctions Bill, the infamous Police Act, (S. 46) which have been on the priority of the Government’s political agenda, have now been referred back to the Law Commission for further review.

“Such laws were amongst the issues promoting human rights abuses. As we applaud this move by the Head of State, we also call upon the Law Commission to work independently as mandated by Section 136 of the Constitution of Malawi.

“Let us remind our Legislators that when enacting laws they shall reflect in its deliberations the interests of all people of Malawi. Therefore, it is upon this premise that FDD together with church leaders, and all ordinary Malawians will continue keeping an eye on their commitment to the interests and welfare of all Malawians as guaranteed in the Constitution of Malawi,” concludes the statement.

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